Zanzibar Trip report Part 1: Positioning for my Qatar Airway flight

For my birthday I always plan an international trip. Since I live in Chicago, I usually target somewhere warm. In the past for my birthday, I’ve visited Panama, Costa Rica and Peru. This year I wanted to visit some place exotic and not a usual travel spot for North American tourists. That’s why I chose to go to Zanzibar.

For my trip to Zanzibar, I booked flights on Qatar Airways using American Airline miles. For this trip I would be flight to Zanzibar via Doha. There was no availability on the direct flight from Chicago to Doha so I had to take a positioning flight to Philadelphia in order to get to Doha. The only positioning flight American would let me book for this reward itinerary was a 5:00am flight from Chicago to Philadelphia.

Starting The Trip

The night before my flight to Philadelphia, I decided to stay at the Hilton at O’Hare. The great thing about the hotel, is that it is directly connected to all the domestic terminals so I wouldn’t have to worry about timing an airport shuttle. 

Check-in at the Hilton went pretty quickly. I was checked in and up to my room in about 10 minutes. I dropped my bags off in my room and went to the lobby to get something to eat before going to bed. I went to the coffee shop and got a sandwich and drink. When I went to pay with my Sapphire Reserve, my card was declined. This was weird because this was the same card I used to check into the hotel with. Luckily, I had my Citi Prestige card with me and was able to pay for my meal.

I went up to my room and immediately called Chase. Apparently, my card was declined because there was a fraud alert. This weird because I didn’t get an email or text about a fraud alert which usually happens with Chase. I talked to the Chase representative and he told me that the fraud alert was triggered because on check-in, my card number was manually entered instead of swiped or inserted in the chip reader. I verified that the charge was correct and the representative made sure to note my account to make sure my card wasn’t declined again. After this I ate my dinner and went to bed.

Arriving in Philadelphia

The next morning I boarded my positioning flight to Philadelphia on American Airlines. The flight was uneventful and I slept pretty much the entire way. The flight arrived in Philadelphia around 8:00am. My flight to Doha didn’t leave until 8:55pm that night.

Because I didn’t want to hang around the Philadelphia Airport for 10+ hours, I booked at day rate room at the Renaissance Hotel close the airport. For some reason I haven’t been able to book day rate rooms since Marriott became Bonvoy so I had to use

When I landed and collected my bags, I called up the hotel and they sent their shuttle to pick me up. Check-in was pretty quick and even though I didn’t book through a Marriott Channel, my Bonvoy number was added to the reservation, allowing me to get free premium WiFi.

I slept for a while and had lunch with my parents who drove up to Philadelphia to see me. Around 4:30pm I headed back to the airport. Check-in for Qatar Airways opens at 5:00pm at Philadelphia so I had to wait a little while. Once check-in opened it was painless and I headed to security. For Qatar Airways flight, A West departure hall is used. The thing about this departure hall is there no pre-check or premium security lines so the wait times can be rather long.

After I cleared security I decided to go to the Centurion Lounge. It wasn’t at capacity, so I was allowed in but the place was a mad house. There was no where to sit. I stay for about 5 minutes then left.

At Philadelphia, Qatar Airways Business Class passengers are allowed the use of the British Airways lounge. I tried to use First Class dining since I have OneWorld Emerald through my Executive Platinum status but it was a no go. I could only get access to first class lounges outside of the US.

The British Airways Lounge was pretty uninspiring but it was quiet. I was able to check some email and respond to text messages before I boarded my flight. There wasn’t much of a food selection for business class passengers just some sandwiches, fruit, vegetables and other snacks.

I didn’t mind too much as I would be having dinner on the plane. I left the lounge around 8:00pm and board my flight to Doha.